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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index O > Wilhelm Ostwald Quotes

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Wilhelm Ostwald
(2 Sep 1853 - 4 Apr 1932)

Russian-German physical chemist who was awarded the 1909 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work on catalysis, chemical equilibrium, and reaction velocities.


Science Quotes by Wilhelm Ostwald (3 quotes)

Die Wissenschaft ist ein Land, welches die Eigenschaft hat, um so mehr Menschen beherbergen zu kφnnen, je mehr Bewohner sich darin sammeln; sie ist ein Schatz, der um so grφsser wird, je mehr man ihn teilt. Darum kann jeder von uns in seiner Art seine Arbeit tun, und die Gemeinsamkeit bedeutet nicht Gleichfφrmigkeit.
Science is one land, having the ability to accommodate even more people, as more residents gather in it; it is a treasure that is the greater the more it is shared. Because of that, each of us can do his work in his own way, and the common ground does not mean conformity.
— Wilhelm Ostwald
Speaking (in German) at the Banquet to Past Presidents, the Chemical Society, as published in William Crookes (ed.) The Chemical News (16 Dec 1898), 78, 298. Also used as epigraph, in Paul Walden, Wilhelm Ostwald (1904), 1. Translation by Webmaster.
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At my urgent request the Curie laboratory, in which radium was discovered a short time ago, was shown to me. The Curies themselves were away travelling. It was a cross between a stable and a potato-cellar, and, if I had not seen the worktable with the chemical apparatus, I would have thought it a practical joke.
Wilhelm Ostwald on seeing the Curie's laboratory facilities.
— Wilhelm Ostwald
In R. Reid, Marie Curie (1974), 95.
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I am now convinced that we have recently become possessed of experimental evidence of the discrete or grained nature of matter, which the atomic hypothesis sought in vain for hundreds and thousands of years. The isolation and counting of gaseous ions, on the one hand, which have crowned with success the long and brilliant researches of J.J. Thomson, and, on the other, agreement of the Brownian movement with the requirements of the kinetic hypothesis, established by many investigators and most conclusively by J. Perrin, justify the most cautious scientist in now speaking of the experimental proof of the atomic nature of matter, The atomic hypothesis is thus raised to the position of a scientifically well-founded theory, and can claim a place in a text-book intended for use as an introduction to the present state of our knowledge of General Chemistry.
— Wilhelm Ostwald
In Grundriss der allgemeinen Chemie (4th ed., 1909), Preface, as cited by Erwin N. Hiebert and Hans-Gunther Korber in article on Ostwald in Charles Coulston Gillespie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography Supplement 1, Vol 15-16, 464.
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Quotes by others about Wilhelm Ostwald (2)

Ostwald was a great protagonist and an inspiring teacher. He had the gift of saying the right thing in the right way. When we consider the development of chemistry as a whole, Ostwald's name like Abou ben Adhem's leads all the rest ... Ostwald was absolutely the right man in the right place. He was loved and followed by more people than any chemist of our time.
'Ostwald', Journal of Chemical Education, 1933, 10, 612, as cited by Erwin N. Hiebert and Hans-Gunther Korber in article on Ostwald in Charles Coulston Gillespie (ed.), Dictionary of Scientific Biography Supplement 1, Vol 15-16, 466, which also says Wilder Bancroft "received his doctorate under Ostwald in 1892."
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Half a century ago Oswald (1910) distinguished classicists and romanticists among the scientific investigators: the former being inclined to design schemes and to use consistently the deductions from working hypotheses; the latter being more fit for intuitive discoveries of functional relations between phenomena and therefore more able to open up new fields of study. Examples of both character types are Werner and Hutton. Werner was a real classicist. At the end of the eighteenth century he postulated the theory of “neptunism,” according to which all rocks including granites, were deposited in primeval seas. It was an artificial scheme, but, as a classification system, it worked quite satisfactorily at the time. Hutton, his contemporary and opponent, was more a romanticist. His concept of “plutonism” supposed continually recurrent circuits of matter, which like gigantic paddle wheels raise material from various depths of the earth and carry it off again. This is a very flexible system which opens the mind to accept the possible occurrence in the course of time of a great variety of interrelated plutonic and tectonic processes.
In 'The Scientific Character of Geology', The Journal of Geology (Jul 1961), 69, No. 4, 456-7.
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See also:
  • todayinsci icon 2 Sep - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Ostwald's birth.
  • booklist icon Booklist for Wilhelm Ostwald.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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